ML152: Josh Kaufman on Getting a Personal MBA, Decision-Making Algorithms and How to Market a Bestseller

Discover the value of creating a personal MBA for yourself, how to build algorithms for decision-making and the methods used to market a bestseller.

ML152: Josh Kaufman on Getting a Personal MBA, Decision-Making Algorithms and How to Market a Bestseller

Josh Kaufman is an entrepreneur, researcher, and author of three bestselling books – The Personal MBA, the First 20 Hours, and How to Fight a Hydra. I had Josh on the podcast previously where we spoke about the power of storytelling for promoting behaviour change and mastering complex projects.

Josh's book The Personal MBA provides a crash course in business by covering timeless principles and recently hit its 10th Anniversary. The 10th Anniversary of the podcast was an excellent excuse to get him back on the podcast for another chat, which was so good and went on so long, that I've split it into 2 parts.

In this first part, we discuss:

  • The concept of exploration/exploitation and how that can help you decide what to work on
  • The system Josh uses for choosing what to outsource
  • How Josh applied the fundamental law of marketing to his book Personal MBA

We also cover the five sections of business value creation, marketing, sales, value delivery, and finance that Josh structures in the business section of the book, and in Part 2 we'll touch on some of his ideas around people and systems as well as his research methods.

Show Notes

  • Introducing Josh Kaufman [00:39]
  • Ten years since its release, The Personal MBA is still a best-seller worldwide. What is the reason behind its success and its sustained readership? How have readers applied the principles in the book to their own lives? [03:00]
  • In The Personal MBA, Josh separated the book into 3 sections: business principles, people principles and systems principles. How did the structure of the book come about? What were Josh’s personal processes and realisations that helped him figure out how to best organise the book? [05:01]
  • How does the concept of ‘business as a system’ elevate the understanding of the business itself? [06:24]
  • Josh’s superpower is taking in huge amounts of information and extracting the essentials. How did he figure this out and apply it toThe Personal MBA? [08:20]
  • What does Josh think about the debate on pursuing your passion versus pursuing what you’re good at? [10:59]
  • How can we apply the explore-exploit idea to decision-making? When do we know if the information we have is sufficient to make a decision? [12:39]
  • Who are the business people that Josh looks up to and what did he learn from them?
  • According to Josh, understanding failure is essential when starting a business. How does this mindset help in moving a business forward?
  • What are the relative advantages of qualitative and quantitative data? Josh highlights the importance of the anthropological approach to understanding human behaviour [22:07]
  • Josh explains his process of getting feedback and validation, and how he restructured his book How to Fight a Hydra completely. [25:00]
  • The Personal MBA touches on the idea of the hassle premium when it comes to value creation. How do we pinpoint a hassle and build a profitable business around it? [28:24]
  • Josh shares his method for choosing what he should do himself and what he outsources to others. [31:15]
  • One of the biggest challenges in marketing is to create something that isn’t boring. How did Josh avoid that mistake when he published The Personal MBA? [33:27]
  • What are the effects of COVID-19 on business education? How does COVID change how we learn and how we work? [37:08]
  • Josh compares the traditional approach of going to business school with the method he outlines in the personal MBA [41:45]
  • Writing a book is a long process, but the rewards of changing readers lives are significant. How does Josh reflect on the messages of gratitude he receives from readers? [44:18]